An estimated 45 million people in the UK will be forced into fuel poverty and struggle to pay energy bills this winter, new research has found.

Two-thirds of all UK households – or 18 million families – will be plunged into financial precariousness by January due to soaring inflation – which is already at 40-year record high.

According to the study on fuel poverty by the University of York, 68.7% of families in Wales will be impacted upon. While, the hardest hit will be Northern Ireland with 76.3% of families battling to make ends meet, followed by Scotland at 72.8%, then the West Midlands (70.9%) and Yorkshire and the Humber (70.6%).

Three older women pictured walking along the street in Sussex, UKAn estimated 86.4% of pensioner couples will fall into fuel poverty in January, the study said (Alamy/PA)

The research published by The Guardian newspaper further stated that 86.4% of pensioner couples will fall into fuel poverty. Single parent households with two more more children will bare the brunt at 90.4%.

The shadow secretary of state for climate change and net zero, Ed Miliband, responded to the report by calling for an energy price freeze to address the “national emergency” of inflation.

The Labour MP wrote on Twitter: “These shocking figures show the full scale of the national emergency that could unfold unless the Conservative government acts to freeze energy bills.

“We simply cannot allow the British people to suffer in this way.

“We need an energy price freeze.”

It echoed Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer’s proposal announced on Monday to freeze the energy price cap at its current level of £1,971 for six months from October, saving the average household £1,000.

The cost-of-living crisis was catapulted further up the agenda in the Conservative leadership election as new figures showed a worse-than-expected hit in July with the Consumer Prices Index inflation (CPI) reaching 10.1%.

Pressure was further applied to the Tory candidates and Government on Wednesday with the resignation of Ofgem director Christine Farnish, who cited concerns the energy regulator was failing to effectively protect struggling households.

Terrace houses in Derry Londonderry Northern IrelandNorthern Ireland will the region hardest hit by January with 76.3% of homes plunged into fuel poverty (Alamy/PA)

Ms Farnish told The Times the watchdog had not “struck the right balance between the interests of consumers and the interests of suppliers”.

The energy regulator has faced criticism in recent months for not doing enough to protect families during the global energy crisis.

It is understood Ms Farnish’s resignation is linked to Ofgem’s decision to change the methodology of the price cap to allow suppliers to recover some of the high energy “backwardation” costs sooner rather than later.